Fomes fomentarius a very useful fungus

Fomes fomentarius (commonly known as the tinder fungus, false tinder fungus, hoof fungus, tinder conk, tinder polypore or ice man fungus) is a species of fungal plant pathogen found in Europe, Asia, Africa and North America.

It grows on birch and beech trees and looks like this.

The species produces very large polypore fruit bodies which are shaped like a horse's hoof and vary in color from a silvery grey to almost black, though they are normally brown. It grows on the side of various species of tree, especially birch and beech trees. Trees become 'infected' with Fomes fomentarius through broken areas of bark. Generally, you will find this fungus on trees that are dying or dead.

Parasite + Decomposer

The species typically continues to live on trees long after they have died, changing from a parasite to a decomposer. During the decomposition phase, there is a relationship between the fungus and 'white rot', which also aids in the process.

close view of the spore tubes outlets on the underside of the fruiting body


Traditionally, people have used parts of this fungus for a wide variety of purposes including:

  • clothing
  • tobacco substitute
  • pin cushions
  • drying mechanism for fly fishing
  • mounting insects
  • starting fires
  • candle wicks


most commonly, the layer known as 'amadou' is used for tinder
The amadou layer and cross-section of the spore tubes.
harvested amadou layer from the birch tinder fungus with flint and firesteel

This video outlines the process of harvesting the tinder layer or amadou from the fungus.

Ötzi the Iceman & Amadou

Ötzi is a nickname given to a well preserved natural mummy of a man who lived around 3,300 BCE. He was found in the Ötzal Alps near the border between Austria and Italy.

He may have looked something like this reconstruction.

Among Ötzi's possessions were berries, two birch bark baskets, and two species of polypore mushrooms with leather strings through them. One of these, the birch fungus, is known to have anthelmintic properties, and was probably used for medicinal purposes. The other was a type of tinder fungus, included with part of what appeared to be a complex firelighting kit. The kit featured pieces of over a dozen different plants, in addition to flint and pyrite for creating sparks.

Incidentally, a team of researchers who analyzed Ötzi's body, found the genome of Borrelia burgdorferi, a bacterium that causes Lyme disease and they speculate that tattoos on the iceman’s spine and ankles and behind his right knee could have been an attempt to treat the joint pain that occurs when the condition goes untreated. (Nature, doi:10.1038/nature.2012.10130)

Borrelia burgdorferi


In Romania and Hungaria, hats and bags are made from the amadou pieces through a traditional process. It was developed by creative artisans in Eastern Europe during communist rule as a means of getting by when other resources were low.

These items are made using large sheets of fungus from beech trees. The feel is like the softest suede. The hats are warm in winter and cool in summer.


  • anti-inflammatory
  • diuretic
  • laxative
  • calming tonic
  • to fight tuberculosis
  • for teeth drying in dentistry
  • wound staunching during surgery
  • treatment of throat, stomach and uterine cancers
  • rituals to clear evil spirits

There have been recent studies that show bioactive substances extracted from Fomes fomentarius are successful anti-tumor agents. There may also be potential for it’s use to enhance circulation, regulate blood sugar and lower blood pressure.


You can use the amadou layer from the tinder fungus for making tea or broth for soups, stews and gravy.
Fly fishermen use amadou to dry off their flies.
Created By
Jennifer Moss


Created with images by ednl - "Tondelzwam van dichtbij" • Dick Culbert - "Fomes fomentarius-- the Tinder Conk" • gailhampshire - "Hoof Fungus. Fomes fomentarius." • echoforsberg - "Fomitopsidaceae Fomes F. fomentarius" • Aah-Yeah - "Baumpilz Zunderschwamm Toadstool" • Aah-Yeah - "Baumpilz" • thart2009 - "Chautauqua Creek"

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